Monday, March 24, 2014

Blake Primer

All interpreters of Blake have their own viewpoint about his work:
The graphically inclined of course tend to focus on that facet.
Politically conscious students of Blake may likely come up with something like Prophet Against Empire.
A specialist in literature might write something in the vein of Fearful Symmetry.
Then we have biographers and encylopedists.
Spiritually minded folk may see something in Blake that the materially minded are apt to miss.
Recent Blake literature has come largely from secular interpreters. The religious community for the most part have totally ignored Blake. Nevertheless he was a profoundly spiritual man. This introduction to Blake focuses on his spiritual life as expressed in his aesthetics, politics, and psychology.


CHAPTER ONE in a short biographical sketch recounts those events which largely determined the shape of his career. It also gives the first thumbnail outline of his work.

CHAPTER TWO provides the reader with some of the basic equipment he will need to begin to read Blake with comprehension.

CHAPTER THREE Some simpler Blake poetry (Simple only in the sense that some meaning readily emerges.)

CHAPTER Four interprets Blake's faith as it developed through the circumstances of his life. My distinctive view of that development includes a change of direction or attitude toward Christ in Blake's early forties.

CHAPTER Five traces Blake's struggle with God through the early images of Nobodaddy, Father of Jealousy, Urizen, and the God of this World, to his "first Vision of Light" and the resulting commitment to what he called (among other things) Jesus the Imagination.

CHAPTER Six explains Blake's understanding of the Bible, his primary source. Blake cast light on biblical ideas, and conversely the Bible explains Blake. Redemption history, the struggle between Jehovah and Astarte, the symbology of Ezekiel and Revelation are some of the topics dealt with. (If you want a quick introduction to the relationship between Blake poetry and the Bible go here.)

CHAPTER Seven details Blake's relationship to the established church, his view of church history, his attitude as a dissenter against a state church and other forms of inauthentic authority, his relationship to Quakers, Methodists, and Deists as well as his personal associations, seen imaginatively as a religious community.

CHAPTER Eight treats Blake's sexuality, his attitudes toward prevailing sexual mores, his incorporation of biblical viewpoints toward sex, especially in the symbology of the heterodox tradition.

CHAPTER Nine describes the development of the mythology that forms the framework of Blake's major works.

The primary sources for this work of course were Blake's poetry and pictures and the Bible. The most significant secondary sources were Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry, Milton Percival's Circle of Destiny, Kathleen Raine's Blake and Tradition, and C.G. Jung's Memories, Dreams, and Reflections.

I have no special academic qualifications in this field. My real qualifications are a lifetime commitment both to the Christian faith in general and to William Blake's expression of it in particular. Judging from the literature those qualifications must be close to unique among writers on Blake


Susan J. said...

thanks for posting this overview, Larry -- I woke up this morning wanting a new start / rebirth - on many levels ---

this made me smile:

"Some simpler Blake poetry (Simple only in the sense that some meaning readily emerges.)"

Larry said...

Right, Susan; as the years go by I find being simple becomes a necessity.